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Nelson v. Washington County Board of Education

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

April 14, 2017

HUNTERIA B. NELSON, Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          KATHERINE P. NELSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Currently pending before this Court is Defendant, Washington County Board of Education's (“Board” or “Defendant”), Motion for Summary Judgment and Brief in Support thereof with exhibits, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). (Docs. 36, 37, and 38 respectively). The parties have consented to jurisdiction by Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. (Doc. 20). Plaintiff has filed a response to the motion (Doc. 47)[1] to which Defendant has replied (Doc. 44). The undersigned additionally granted Plaintiff leave to file a Sur-Reply (Doc 46-1) and the same has been considered for purposes of this order. After careful consideration of the record, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to all counts of Plaintiffs Amended Complaint (“Complaint”) is granted pursuant to Rule 56(c) as there are no genuine issues of material fact for a jury to consider.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In March, 2015, Plaintiff, an African American female, applied for the vacant position of Curriculum Assessment/Federal Programs Coordinator (“Coordinator”) for the Washington County School System. (Doc. 18 at 2; Doc. 37 at 1). On or about April, 23, 2015, Plaintiff was informed that she was not selected to fill the vacancy. (Doc. 18 at 3). Instead, the Board unanimously approved Betty Brackin (“Brackin”) for the Coordinator position following the recommendation of the Superintendent, Tim Savage (“Savage”), a white male. (Id.) Plaintiff timely filed a charge of race discrimination with the Equal Opportunity Commission against the Board and subsequently received a Notice of Right to Sue. (Doc. 18 at 4; Doc. 36 at 1).

         At the time of her hiring, Brackin had just received her Class A, Instructional Leadership Certificate, the minimum requirement for the Coordinator vacancy. (Doc. 18 at 4). At the time Plaintiff was rejected for the position, she had held her Class A Educational Administrator Certificate for nine years, held a doctorate in Educational Leadership (since 2010), had a J.D. from Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans, Louisiana, had been a licensed attorney in the State of Alabama since 2000, and had sixteen years of work at various levels in the Alabama Public School System. (Id.) Plaintiff additionally had administrative experience as an Administrative Intern (assistant Principal) at Booker T. Washington Middle School, Site Supervisor for summer school at Denton Middle School, which serves as the site for all failing students for the Mobile County Public School System, and was Mathematics Department Chair and Saturday School Administrator for Pillans Middle School in Mobile, County. (Id.)

         Plaintiff asserts that unlike Brackin, (1) Plaintiff's administrative experience was acquired after the completion of her administrative certification, (2) Plaintiff was not given an administrative “edge” by working in positions without the necessary qualification, and (3) that Plaintiff's qualifications far exceed those of Brackin. (Id. at 3-4). As a result, Plaintiff contends she was denied the position for Coordinator based on race. (Id. at 4). Plaintiff further asserts that she was denied a second job opportunity of Principal of Washington County High School in retaliation for her pending EEOC charge of racial discrimination. (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed this action against the Board on December 29, 2015, “pursuant to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 42 U.S.C. Sections 1981, as both have been amended, and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution made actionable by 42 U.S.C. Section 1983.” (Doc. 1 at 1). On March 18, 2016, the Board filed an Answer (Doc. 8) and a Motion for More Definite Statement seeking clarification for, among other things, Plaintiff's alleged retaliation claim, Count III. (Doc. 7). On April 4, 2016, Plaintiff responded to the Board's Motion clarifying that with regard to the retaliation claims the Complaint “should state “Plaintiff was also denied a second vacancy that became available during the EEOC investigation of Plaintiff's initial charge of discrimination. Plaintiff contends that the second denial was in retaliation for her initial complaint of race discrimination.” (Doc. 15 at 1). Plaintiff further stated as follows:

The retaliation claims are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sections 1981, made actionable by 42 U.S.C. Sections 1983, Count III, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which is Count I of the Complaint.
There is a Title VII retaliation claim pending at the EEOC due to Plaintiff being rejected for the position of Principal at Washington County High School, which Plaintiff expects to add by amendment once a Notice of Rights is received on that Charge, bearing number 425-2016-00201. However, at this point, there is no Title VII retaliation claim mentioned in the Complaint in this case, and there is no obligation on Plaintiff's part to submit a Notice of Rights for a claim that is not in her Complaint.

(Doc. 15 at 2). Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (“Complaint”) on April 7, 2016. (Doc. 18). With regard to the retaliation claim, the Amended Complaint included the clarified language stated above and, again, asserted Plaintiff was retaliated against in Count III. (Doc. 18 at 4). On January 30, 2017, Defendant filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment as to all Counts of Plaintiff's Complaint. (Doc. 36). Plaintiff responded on March 7, 2017 (Doc. 42), Defendant has replied (Doc. 44) and Plaintiff has filed a Second Corrected Response (Doc. 47) and a Sur-Reply (Doc. 46-1). Defendant's motion is now ripe.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “An issue of fact is ‘material' if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law and it is ‘genuine' if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Ave. CLO Fund, Ltd. v. Bank of Am., N.A., 723 F.3d 1287, 1294 (11th Cir. 2013) (quotations omitted). “Summary judgment is only appropriate if a case is ‘so one- sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.' ” Quigg v. Thomas Cty. Sch. Dist., 814 F.3d 1227, 1235 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)) (citation omitted). However, a “ ‘mere scintilla' of evidence is insufficient; the non-moving party must produce substantial evidence in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Garczynski v. Bradshaw, 573 F.3d 1158, 1165 (11th Cir. 2009) (per curiam). In other words, “there must be enough of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that party … Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (quotations omitted).

         “[C]ourts are required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the summary judgment motion.” Jackson v. West, 787 F.3d 1345, 1352 (11th Cir. 2015) (quoting Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (alteration adopted) (quotations omitted)). See also Allen, 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (“The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” (quotations omitted)). “The Court ‘must avoid weighing conflicting evidence or making credibility determinations.' ” Ave. CLO Fund, 723 F.3d at 1294 (quoting Stewart v. Booker T. Washington Ins., 232 F.3d 844, 848 (11th Cir. 2000)). ...


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